By G9ija

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday sacked Health Minister Pavithra Wanniaarachchi and reshuffled his cabinet amidst growing opposition criticism that some of the ministries, including health, were underperforming as the Coronavirus pandemic worsened.

The changes were made in the foreign, education, transport, media, power and energy portfolios.

This, makes the first major changes in the one-year-old government led by President Rajapaksa and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda.

Wanniaarachchi, who was being criticised by the opposition for the failure to control the COVID-19 situation, was reassigned to transport, which is considered a less important ministry.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella has been named as the new health minister.

COVID-19 deaths have seen a rapid increase in the past few weeks in Sri Lanka, with over 160 deaths and over 3,500 cases daily.

Education Minister Lakshman Peiris and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena swapped roles.

Teachers in Sri Lanka have been conducting street protests in the last few weeks over salaries and they have boycotted conducting online lessons for over four million students who were unable to attend schools due to the pandemic.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s son Namal Rajapaksa, who was the sports minister, was also given the additional responsibility of overseeing development activities.

The changes came in the wake of the government imposing a six-hour nightly curfew with effect from Monday at 10 pm (1630 GMT) to control the spread of the virus.